Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

G20 Interfaith Summit

Conference Location

Istanbul, Turkey


This session focused on the relationship between gender roles, human rights laws, religious teachings and sustainable development. Moderated by Karen Hamilton (Secretary General, Canadian Council of Churches, Canada), speakers were Nazila Ghanea (Associate Professor International Human Rights Law, University of Oxford, OSCE Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief, United Kingdom), Sherrie Steiner (Assistant Professor of Sociology, Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne, USA), Anita Soboleva (Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Department of Theory and History of Law, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia), and Lena Larsen (Executive Director, Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo, Norway)

Sherrie Steiner identified ways in which women of faith and faith communities are both making positive contributions to sustainable development, but the affirmation of a sustainability that affirms human flourishing requires adjustments to how gender roles are frequently lived out. The social construction of gender roles contributes to both the problem and the solution of the current crisis. Although women are more impacted by environmental degradation than men, when empowered, women tend to bring more stable and broad based changes to the community because of their caregiving roles in social relations and their responsibilities in everyday life. For this reason, investing in women has a multiplier effect for environmental sustainability. Historically, when women have exercised leadership roles in religious movement organizations, they have partly embraced and partly subverted dominant ideals about gender relations. Women often used their homes as basic organizing units within the movement, especially as a survival strategy during periods of repression and opposition from both organized religion and the state. Women negotiate their roles in a complex interplay between family, faith and the public domain. Although religious freedom may introduce an element of flourishing into the struggle for human survival, rigid gender role construction undermines the affirmation of life. Perhaps it is through women’s ongoing subversive embrace of their place in the world that sustainable development becomes possible.[



Included in

Sociology Commons